Place Your Vote - for Place!

We need your feedback on how to use design to make streets safer by November 20th!

Happy Election Day, America! We hope each and every one of you are out doing your civic duty (or voted early - no excuses, I managed to vote from Shanghai!). That’s definitely first and foremost on today’s agenda. But the second thing on your list should be to get your placemaking voice heard! You see, a few weeks ago, we asked for your help by voting for our proposal for the City of Tomorrow Challenge in Pittsburgh, to help make city streets safer for pedestrians, bikes, and motorists alike. And wow, did you all rise to the challenge. And guess what, your voice was heard loud and clear — WE MADE THE SEMI-FINALS (we were one of 13 chosen out of 128 ideas submitted!)! Thank you guys SO much!!

But now we need your help again. The City of Pittsburgh - and Ford - is keen to make sure the winning proposal heeds people’s true needs. And we here at State of Place are always eager to hear from the people that will reap the rewards of data-driven citymaking - after all, data is simply a means to the end of actually getting awesome places ALL people love DONE! Plus, if we are able to use data to make it safer for people of all ages and abilities (physical, economic, and otherwise) to cross the street in Pittsburgh, then there’s no reason not to do that everywhere. Convinced yet? Ok fine, we’ll be choosing one lucky winner from those of you who submit feedback who will get a free State of Place analysis! Ok, so now you’re totally hooked. Awesome. So you can click here to go straight to the proposal here right now and give us your feedback (by November 20th!) OR TLDR - you can read a short summary of what we are planning do for Pittsburgh below!

Rationale & Problem:

Every 25 seconds, someone dies in a traffic collision. A number of cities worldwide have created Vision Zero programs (or the equivalent) to create safer streets and ensure that not one more person dies on their roads. But most cities lack the data needed to identify how best to reduce the likelihood of collisions and eliminate injuries and fatalities or don’t know what changes to prioritize given stretched budgets and limited capacity (so they often forego urban design strategies altogether and opt for “enforcement” and “education,” which are not as effective as physical changes to our streets). Good urban design can be a matter of life and death - cities should not have to rely on intuition or gut or finger-crossing and simply hope that their interventions will work. They need a solution that will allow them to implement urban design changes that are mostly likely to save lives!

Solution & Benefits:

Today, State of Place is tied to higher real estate values and we use this connection to help cities and developers make the investment case for better places AND use this data to help them figure out the best ways to actually make these places more walkable and livable - faster, more affordably, and more effectively than the typical citymaking process. Cool right? Well, for the City of Tomorrow Challenge, we proposed tying the State of Place Index to collision, injury, and fatality rates so that cities can identify which urban design changes are mostly likely to reduce - and eventually eliminate - pedestrian, bicyclist, and motorist deaths! And they would be able to justify the costs of these projects (in case the whole life/death argument isn’t enough) from an economic perspective too (because we of course calculate the return on investment - ROI - of these and all urban design projects). And of course, as is the case with State of Place today, cities could do this fast (very important given the stakes) and cost efficiently.

Nitty gritty details for all you fellow urban data geeks:

We have proposed five simple steps:

  1. Hotspot sampling

    Conduct a stratified random sampling of the City’s current hotspots (areas of high collisions). In non-nerd speak, this means putting the hotspots in order of low to high walkability, dividing them into different levels (think grades) based on the spread of walkability of the hotposts, and then randomly choosing a sample from each of the different levels of walkability. This gives you a sample of hotspots that overall are similar the the full “population” (i.e., all the hotspots) - which is want you want so that any recommendations we make based on the sample can be applied to all streets.

  2. Control sampling

    All this means is that we want to also analyze blocks in which no collisions have occurred (non-hotspots) so we can see if there are some urban design features that safer streets have that less safe streets don’t, or vice versa.

  3. Collect Data!

    Collect data on over 290 urban design features for all sample and control blocks - think street trees, lamps, sidewalks - and aggregate that into the State of Place Index (score from 0-100). We’ll also generate the State of Place Profile for the blocks - which breaks down the Index into ten urban design dimensions. We want to do this because some characteristics - like traffic safety or pedestrian and bike amenities - might have more of an impact on collisions than say aesthetics.

  4. Analyze that Data!

    Yay, an urban data geek’s dream! We’ll dig deep into the relationship between urban design - using the Index and Profile - and identify how the built environment impacts collision, injury, and fatality rates. We’ll also be able to pinpoint which feature or set of features has the highest impact on reducing these incidences - and save lives!

  5. Save all the lives!

So while most of my academic friends would be super happy with 1-4 above, we really gotta make this research actionable - so yup, you guessed it, we’ll add a new module in our software that allows Cities to get automatic recommendations, run unlimited scenarios - Sim-City style, and of course, most importantly, identify the scenarios that will help reduce collisions the most - and save lives (and generate the economic return analyses they need to get these projects approved and funded).

Bottom line:

State of Place will help cities save pedestrians’, bicyclists’, and motorists’ lives by identifying urban design changes most likely to prevent traffic collisions to begin all by using a fun, easy, affordable software that is faster, more affordable, and more effective than other existing citymaking solutions (of which there are like none that do this anyway! :)) all while getting the best bang for their buck, safety-wise (and yeah, economically too).

So what you waiting for? Go place for vote for place (now that you’ve done your most important civic duty!). Click here to voice your opinions (by November 20th!)!

And if you’re already super stoked and want to help your city save lives, hit us up below!

Mariela Alfonzo